Foggy May have an identity crises. What do they want to be? Do they want to be a pop-reggae band? Do they want to be a rock band? Do they want to be a pop-rock band? It’s hard to tell on their most recent self-titled seven-song set, which can be as thrilling as it is frustrating, as promising as it is deflating. The songs aren’t bad, but the collection, as a whole, is uneven, amounting to a confusing trip through the tastes of a band still trying to find its footing.
None of this is to say that they don’t do what they do well. The recording itself is polished and the performances are tight. Plus, considering how there’s only three dudes in the group, this is a band that sounds bigger than it is, which is a testament to their individual talents. Trios are hard enough to come by as it is these days; to do it well is an accomplishment in and of itself.
The problem? Only some of the roads they choose to travel are roads worth going down. “Darian” is the set’s most memorable effort because this band’s best threads come in the form of their Sublime wardrobe. The harmonic vocals that paint the chorus harken back to some of Bradley Nowell’s best ideas, and it’s clear these guys have mastered the pop-reggae groove so much that there’s nothing Slightly Stoopid about it. Even the hip-hop element of the verses feels authentically SoCal.
Other notable moments come when the band plays off those ideals. “Cracked Coconut” doesn’t lean on the upstroke as much as its better half, but it still utilizes that Jamaican feel through its verses with varying success. When singer David Klima notes how he’s got a “Corona and my lime,” you can practically feel the ocean breeze pass through your hair. Plus, this thing has a hook impossible to forget and a trumpet part that adds just the right touch to this beach party.
But that’s where the fun in the sun ends. Opener “Switch Gears” begins with a rock riff that might even make Living Colour smirk before dueling electric guitars go for power funk without quite getting there. That then gives way to a psychedelic slow jam with a bass guitar that reaches just a little too far at times and a wah-wah peddle that meanders more than it has to. It’s Dale And The Z-Dubs meets Jack Funk, and it works.
“A Child In Denver,” however? Not so much. Klima can sound like Brandon Boyd when he wants to (and here, he does), but after nearly a minute of buildup, the song’s payoff comes in the form of a standard distorted guitar riff that feels like more of a letdown than anything. Only when the track settles into minimal bass and drums does it feel like these guys are reaching their fullest potential in this context. It’s not that they can’t rock; it’s just that they need to do a better job when it comes to thinking about it.
Case in point: “Love Jam Roll On,” the album’s centerpiece. At more than six-and-a-half minutes, it’s a throwback waltz that is completely undermined by the opening silliness of a line like, “It’s really over / You had your chance / Everything I could have done / Is still in my pants.” The song ultimately evolves into a showcase for guitarist Ben O’Brien’s guitar and sure, the guy can play, but nobody would complain if the track came in just a couple minutes shorter than it does.
That’s sort of the problem with “Foggy May” — it would have benefited greatly from an editor, an outside voice that could help guide these three Westminster lads toward reaching their highest ceiling. They’re at their best when they embrace the pop-reggae they do so well; anything else feels like disappointing filler, even if they aren’t half-bad at concocting vaguely funky rock songs every now and then.
All this to say, a little more focus — and, weirdly, a little less ambition — could clear up the blind spots this fog too often provides.
** 2 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 **